The week’s letters

Top level support key to productivity

I applaud Personnel Today’s Productivity White Paper initiative.

To my mind, HR has a critically important role to play in improving UK

But to fulfil this role adequately depends on having the all important
top-level support. Without it, substantial, far-reaching productivity
improvements are impossible.

Even where HR has board-level representation, it is difficult to achieve
because very few CEOs view productivity improvement as a priority.

Or they set unambitious improvement thresholds; the infamous British ‘Going
for Bronze’ mentality. How do we know? Because we’ve surveyed thousands of them
over successive years.

Our research also finds that inadequate management is a primary reason for
ineffective time and resource utilisation in the workplace.

But there is more to this issue than wrong priorities, poor management or
low ambition.

Take the general standard of workforce education. Out of 24 OECD countries,
the UK ranks 22 when it comes to young adults continuing with their education
after the age of 18. There are other factors too. For example, IT and morale
problems both contribute to underperformance.

Almost half of all time spent at work in Britain is thought to be
unproductive. Our work with The London School of Economics has allowed the
economic cost to be estimated at £111bn – and that’s just the private sector.
To put it into context, that is twice as much as the Chancellor plans to spend
on the NHS over the next four years.

Business leaders and HR professionals alike need to understand and act upon
all factors that hinder productivity at the micro-economic level. We can then
all benefit from the results at the macro level.

Kevin Parry
Chairman, Proudfoot Consulting

Women hindered by more than just pay

Having read the recurring letters about the barriers faced by women in the
workplace, I can relate to the horror stories of women in HR, particularly
older women.

However, as an HR practitioner for the last 20 years, and a senior manager
before that, in my experience, sex discrimination and ageism are spread across
UK society and are not confined to HR. It is simply more shocking that HR is
affected and has not risen above it.

In recruiting only younger candidates, HR departments are missing the boat.
Instead of developing on the experience of older professionals, and creating a
newer, high-tech, exciting HR world for young practitioners to enter, the HR
profession is stale.

Students today are asking the same questions I did 20 years ago, and when
they have found the answers, they too will probably be dispatched as too old to
have anything of relevance to say.

Is this a reason why Britain is struggling in a world marketplace? Where is
the vision?

Mary Thompson
HR consultant

Has M&S got the CSR balance right?

I am sure that Marks & Spencer is genuinely well-intentioned in its
promotion of corporate social responsibility (CSR), (News, 4 February).

I do, however, have to ask where is CSR in a company that has put many of
its long-standing suppliers in the UK community out of business, in favour of
sourcing a very significant proportion of its products from eastern Europe,
Africa and the Far East?

I’m not knocking M&S, but it does point to a fundamental dilemma for a
company that seeks to balance demands for profit with the wish to be seen as a
socially responsible, ethical organisation that invests in the local community.

Inevitably, the drive for profit will triumph as the headline on the article
attests. Then, I fear, CSR is just window dressing.

Sue Holden FCIPD
Head of OD & training, Homefirst Community HSS Trust

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